Prays Together: What Freedom Feels Like

In the last week of June, the Bridge Church hosted its first Freedom Weekend. For the previous thirteen weeks, small groups gathered to participate in a curriculum called “Freedom.” It takes you on a journey with God to places of the heart that have been most harmed. After thirteen weeks, the small groups gathered for a Friday evening and then all day on Saturday to pray, worship and deal with what they’ve learned.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” It’s amazing what we can accumulate in our hearts that’s hidden. We live in the land of the free, but because of heart issues we can be bound. Issues like anger, rejection, shame, fear, and unforgiveness can rule our lives, creating a lifetime of problems. The most pronounced ones in my life and in the lives of some people are unforgiveness, anger, rejection and shame.

People will be stuck and miss out on healthy relationships because of unforgiveness. You think you’re doing what’s right, but your unforgiveness holds your heart hostage. One person explained it like this: “Unforgiveness is like pouring gas on yourself, then setting yourself on fire and hoping the other person dies of smoke inhalation.” When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, he said, “Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12). Asking for forgiveness and forgiving others is paramount to our freedom.

Anger is cruel and controls you. In Ephesians 4:26-27 we read, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” This is something we have all dealt with and have seen the impact it makes. It seems to run in families: I’m angry, my grandma was angry, and her dad was angry, etc.

We often think the best way to deal with anger is to pretend that it is not there. When anger kicks in and we blow up, we often try to minimize the reaction and the destruction. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Rejection and shame can be brutal. It will rob you of life, causing you to not involve yourself because you never feel like you measure up. Shame is that heavy ugly coat that we were never meant to carry. “Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces” (Psalm 34:5). The Good News is that Jesus came to set us free! “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). As you continue to follow Jesus, you will discover that he’s not content to see your heart continually bound, he will liberate you because he passionately loves you.

Gabe Gary is pastor at The Bridge Exeter. He may be reached by calling 559-592-4828. Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column among the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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